Introduction to Gunma
Gunma is located in the northwest of the Kanto region, about two hours from Tokyo. A large portion of the prefecture is mountainous and the remaining—including most of Gunma’s largest cities—are in the plains. Three major mountains—Mt. Akagi, Mt. Haruna, and Mt. Myogi—dominate Gunma’s landscape.
Although often thought of as an “inaka” (countryside) prefecture, Gunma has a mix of both city and outdoor attractions. In Gunma’s city areas, you’ll find several museums, malls, shopping centers, sports centers, clubs, bars, restaurants, and more to provide entertainment in a more suburban lifestyle.
Outside the city, Gunma has many more attractions—mountain climbing, hiking, skiing, rafting, “canyoning,” biking, onsen (hot-spring baths), museums, and much more. Gunma is famous for its winding mountain roads and motor enthusiasts can find plenty of places to enjoy themselves.
For those interested in culture, you’ll not find it lacking in Gunma—the summer is filled with festivals, there are plenty or temples, shrines, and other religions sites, and many places in Gunma offer demonstrations, examples, and instruction in traditional arts, crafts, cooking, etc.
In neighboring areas, residents of Gunma can find popular tourist areas such as Nikko and Nagano, and Gunma is close enough to Tokyo that the city can easily be done in a day, or even all weekend.
Because of Gunma’s diverse geography, weather throughout the prefecture can vary. Winters, particularly in the mountains, can be cold, and higher elevations often experience lots of snow snow during the winter months. Gunma winters are famous for the karakkaze—dry, cold winter winds of impressive intensity.
During the summer, Gunma—like all of Japan—is hot and humid, and particularly in the cities reach the upper 30s. During the summer, sudden thunderstorms or rain showers are common, particularly during tsuyu, the rainy season, beginning in June. For those who haven’t experience all four season, you’ll experience them in Gunma, both in their beauty and in their frustration.
Facts & Figures
- Capital: Maebashi
- Population: 2,014,608
Below are descriptions of each region of Gunma, written for you by your friendly neighborhood GAJET Regional Representatives.
The Chubu region of Gunma contains Shibukawa, Yoshioka, Shinto, Fujimi, Maebashi, Tamamura, and Isesaki. The northern part of the Chubu region is on the edge of Gunma’s mountains region.
Maebashi has the largest population in the Chubu region, is the capital city of Gunma, and has a great suburban feel. Maebashi also has Keyaki Walk, an indoor shopping mall featuring a variety of excellent restaurants, shops, and even a Kinokuniya bookstore.
Isesaki is the second largest city in the Chubu region, and is one of the fast growing cities in Gunma. It has a sizable Brazillian and Peruvian population ,which means there are some great restaurants in the area. Isesaki is also home to Kezoji Park, a great place to have hanami or ride the ferris wheel. Isesaki also has a multistory indoor shopping mall, SMARK , which can scratch that shopping itch.
Shibukawa has the third largest population out of the cities in the Chubu region, has a very active International society, and is fairly close to the outdoor adventures available in Minakami.
The Chubu region of Gunma has a great atmospheric mix of city and suburban living and is always a fun place to visit
Located in the west of Gunma, Agatsuma is more than just mountains! However, the mountains here do provide beautiful scenery year-round. Enjoy hiking during mild weather, and skiing and snowboarding in the winter.
Agatsuma is most famous for Kusatsu Onsen and the surrounding town, one of the most famous and beloved onsen in all of Japan. Kusatsu is also the home of Mount Shirane, a volcano containing a crater lake whose water has the highest pH level in the world!
The hip, artsy town of Nakanojo has many interesting local shops like “Tsumuji.” You can also enjoy the Nakanojo Biennale (a large arts festival) every other fall.
In the town of Kuni, you can enjoy scenic nature at Nozori Lake, a man-made lake with hiking trails, camping, fishing, and more! Tiny Takayama village is the home of the Gunma Astronomical Observatory and Lockheart Castle (an actual Scottish castle that was disassembled, shipped to Japan, and reassembled).
Higashi-Agatsuma-machi is the home of beautiful Mount Iwabitsu and the modern-style Iwabitsu castle (which houses an onsen and gym). Higashi-Agatsuma-machi is also the home of the only karaoke box in Agatsuma, “Jupiter.”
Did you know “Agatsuma” translates to “my wife” in Japanese? Husbands take this meaning to heart in Tsumagoi where, every fall, they gather to literally shout their love for their wife over the town’s famous cabbage fields during the Aisaika Festival.
The sleepy town of Naganohara is home to the Agatsuma Gorge, a hidden gem famous for it’s fall foliage. In January, Naganohara hosts the Kawarayu Onsen Hot Spring Festival in which participants wearing loincloths throw hot onsen water on each other in freezing temperatures. Naganohara is also at the center of a controversial, decades-long dam-building project which threatens to flood much of its natural beauty, so visit while you can!
There’s so much to see and do here in Agatsuma. Come for a visit…just remember your jacket!
Tone is the northern-most region of Gunma and includes Numata City, Minakami Town, Kawaba Village, Katashina Village, and Showa Village. Some of the higher altitude areas can have cooler summers than other parts of Gunma, and cold but beautiful snowy winters.
Given its mountainous location, most of the region is relatively “inaka”. However, don’t take that to be a bad thing! Tone is blessed with an abundance of natural attractions such as amazing natural onsen, ski resorts for all skill levels, Oze National Park, and hiking trails, making it a prime outdoor recreation destination all year round. Be sure to try some of the outdoor sports up in Minakami, where you can go bungee jumping, canyoning, rafting, or even paragliding!
Numata is small in comparison to the major city centres, so while it isn’t the best place for shopping, it has a good selection of restaurants and izakaya.
Tone is easily accessible via train and car; give the scenic route a go if you plan on driving! While it takes a little longer than the expressway (toll way), the stretch of Route 17 in Tone runs alongside the Tone River and many of the mountain roads provide breathtaking scenery. Check out the GAJET page for more information.
Welcome to the Tobu Region! The Tobu region is located in the south eastern Gunma and borders Saitama, Tochigi and Ibaraki.This region includes Kiryu, Midori, Ota, Oura, Oizumi, Chiyoda, Tatebayashi, Meiwa and Itakura. The Tobu region offers a more countryside view of Gunma. While the Tobu region may lack a big city feel, there are plenty of things worth seeing and doing in this area.
In early August Kiryu’s Yagibushi Festival is a must see. The city’s main street is packed with people of all ages dancing, eating, and drinking. You can also visit Gunma Insect World in Kiryu.
Ota and Oizumi are known for their Brazilian populations and Oizumi is also host to a Brazilian-style festival in the summer. If you need to go shopping and Tokyo seems too far away, Ota’s Aeon Mall is easily accessible by bus from the train station.
For nature lovers, Tatebayashi boasts one of Gunma’s best cherry blossom viewing sites in the spring in addition to being famous for its azaleas and irises.
If you enjoy art, Tatebayashi is also home to the Gunma Museum of Art and the Tomihiro Art Museum in Midori displays the work of quadriplegic artist, Tomihiro Hoshino.
The Tobu area may not be the most urban region of Gunma, but it offers a peaceful and scenic dwelling for its residents.
For more information on Gunma and its regions, check out the Gunma Guide.